As long term budget travelers, couchsurfing has become one of our favorite websites. Honestly, whoever invented the couchsurfing website is a genius! We have met so many people including other queer people with the same urge to travel the world and make friends worldwide. There are so many great things about couchsurfing for both the hosts and the surfers, I almost feel like everyone should do it. To be honest, couchsurfing isn’t for everyone, but you can’t knock it till you try it.
As I’ve mentioned before, Zoey and I did couchsurfing all through Japan. We couchsurfed with 20 different hosts for a total of 90 days. Overall, we had amazing hosts but we did have two or three experiences that were just plain weird. Like the time a host told us he couldn’t meet us because his wife cheated on him, or the time we stayed in a moldy house in the middle of nowhere with no wifi or cell phone reception, or the time a hosts had no couch, bed, pillows, or blankets and we had to sleep on our hitchhiking cardboard sign. Yeah, these things happen, but they give great stories to tell.
We loved every bit of our couchsurfing experience, but like I said, it’s not for everyone. So if you’re looking to try couchsurfing, here are a few do’s and don’t’s of couchsurfing that might help.
- Do read the full profiles before sending a message, and send a thoughtful and personal message to each host. If you don’t read their profiles, you might miss the keyword they want you to mention in the message, or you might miss the fact that they mentioned they only accept nudists.
- Do plan ahead. Most of the time, Zoey and I sent couch requests 1-2 weeks in advance because people have lives. Honestly, last minute couch requests are a hosts worst nightmare, although some hosts only accept last minute requests. Again, read the full profile and you’ll find out.
- Do hang out with your host/guest.
- Do share a meal together. Ask your host to take you to a local restaurant so you can try authentic local food, or if you know how to cook, cook a meal for each other.
- Do exchange cultures, stories, and knowledge. The beauty about couchsurfing is the fact that you get to spend time with people from other cultures so sit down, talk to them, ask them questions, and learn. You’ll be shocked at how much knowledge you gain from a single conversation.
- Do clean after yourself and ofter to help clean around the house. Nobody likes doing the dishes, so if you cook together, ofter to wash them.
- Do ask about house rules. Whether it’s no shoes in the house or make your bed after you get up, you want to make sure you know these things.
- Do be respectful and considerate of people’s schedules. If someone is letting you stay at their house, don’t show up at 4am drunk knocking on the door, especially if they have work the next morning. Sometimes a host wants you to leave the house while they are at work, or they want you to be home before a certain time of night. People are opening their homes to you so don’t be ungrateful or rude.
- Do consider cultural differences when it comes to telling people about your sexual orientation. I say this because every culture handles sexuality differently. In Japan, it doesn’t matter if you’re straight or gay, public displays of affection are frowned upon. All I’m saying is, different people will have different reactions to your sexuality, don’t take it personal, but know that if they are rude or hateful, it is obviously not a person you want to stay with. As a lesbian couple, we never came across any hate, but we were always mindful of people’s cultures.
- Do leave a reference. References help hosts and future guests, which ultimately helps the entire couchsurfing community, because it creates a sense of trust.
- Do make lifetime friends. This is an inevitable part of couchsurfing because there are so many beautiful people across the world. Hosts are kind enough to let you into their homes, share their culture with you, and spend time getting to know you. You’ll end up making great friendships. Trust us.
- Don’t just use couchsurfing to find a free place to sleep, seriously. Nobody likes a free loader.
- Don’t have a blank profile. Add as much information about yourself as possible. People want to know who is staying with them or who they are staying with. Add many pictures too, they help recognize your host/guest when you first meet up with them.
- Don’t use the website as a dating platform. This goes for both guests and hosts. Who knows, you might end up falling in love. But seriously though, don’t hit on your guests, especially if they are a lesbian couple.
- Don’t send copy paste messages. It’s obvious when someone sends a generic couch request and hosts hate it. If you don’t care enough to read their profile, the host won’t care enough to host you.
- Don’t be bad mannered. Don’t go into someone’s house and talk to them like you would your friends, be polite and leave the bad words for another time. I think this one is an obvious one but I thought I would mention it anyway.
- Don’t host someone if you don’t have time to hang out with them. Zoey and I always hated when a host would let us stay at their place but would spend a total of 10 minutes a day with us. It just made us feel like we were in the way. I think this goes both ways, if you are only going to a city for a few days to do a tour, don’t stay at someones house if you don’t have time to hang out with them.
- Don’t go through other people’s stuff. I think this is simple common sense.
- Don’t bring someone home from the bar. You’re in a new country and you end up finding a cute girl who wants to “hang out,” go “hang out” at her place not at your host home.
- Don’t cancel unexpectedly. It sucks when you rely on someone to host you and they cancel on you last minute. It sucks when you make plans to host someone and they cancel last minute. Both of these scenarios suck so please don’t do it!
- Don’t forget to say THANK YOU!
Couchsurfing is great, and if you decide to try it out, I suggest you take these things into consideration for the good of all people involved. We loved it so much and made amazing friendships from it, so next time you travel, give it a shot! You can sign up with your Facebook through their homepage here.